On May 25, 2020, George Floyd died under the knee of a White Minneapolis police officer while handcuffed and lying face down. His death spurred local protests which expanded nationally and then internationally. Black Lives Matter has been prominent in organizing many of these protests, accompanied by other groups dedicated to social justice and anti-Black racism.
Like many others across the country, I was thrown into a sense of horror, outrage, and…yes, trauma.
A week after Floyd’s death I put this post on my Leading Consciously Facebook page. I am reposting it here as the first blog post in honor of Floyd and those who preceded him who led to this moment.
Published by Jean Kantambu Latting · May 31 at 2:20 PM
Over the last week, I have wondered if I am experiencing PTSD. Memories of my childhood keep flashing into my brain. I didn’t have any contact with White people unless I left my segregated neighborhood and went downtown or wandered into a White neighborhood. I was routinely demeaned or harassed by one or more White people and it was usually scary. White bystanders would look away. I would go impassive and look down. I was a child.
In the midst of my emotional turmoil and flashbacks to my childhood, imagine my sheer relief to see on the news and in social media Whites protesting, Whites posting on social media, Whites refusing to be bystanders to blatant acts of racial violence. Viral photo of White women standing between the police and the Black protestors. White friends sending me emails about various aspects of what is going on. Protestors of all colors showing up.
A few years ago, in a mixed group, a White friend said to me, “Jean, you are always talking about race.” I was stunned — not knowing how to answer. That was equivalent to saying, “You always talk about your job. Or your children.” Well, yes. Race is part of my daily life and daily conversation — with family, with my Black friends, with work colleagues since I do diversity work. The question is not whether I talk about it. The question is whether you are a close enough friend that I can talk about it with you.
So now it’s once again part of the national discourse. Out of this ugliness and despair, this is the silver lining I see. It’s not just an underground private conversation among my Black friends and publicly progressive White friends. It’s in the open now.
In my community organizing classes long ago, we were taught that the goal of protest is to influence the Zeitgeist. Once the Zeitgeist moves in a certain direction, policy change becomes more likely.
I was speaking with a White friend this morning who wondered whether posting on social media was enough. I told her it may not be enough for her, and more is great and needed, but please don’t minimize its importance.
When the furor dies down, my Black friends and I will continue to talk about our racial experiences and what is happening nationally. Meanwhile, during this time of upheaval, your posts and your talking about it with family and friends are influencing the Zeitgeist. For that I am personally grateful.
Here’s what’s remarkable. To my total surprise, the furor has NOT died down. The protests are now in the 12th day as of this writing.
As of today, the protests have morphed into an uprising and the uprising has led to a call for fundamental change. Corporations, local governments, nonprofits are responding fast and furious, implementing policy changes and trainings to help their employees have a real dialogue about the sea change we are all experiencing.
Here are two major announcements that have knocked me off my feet in wonder and hope that real change might actually occur:
- On Sunday, 6/7/2020, the Minneapolis City Council voted to disband its police department and implement community-based public safety programs in its stead. The Major called it a plan “to end our city’s toxic relationship with the Minneapolis Police Department…. In Minneapolis and in cities across the United States it is clear that our existing system of policing and public safety is not keeping our communities safe.”
- The CEO of Snap, a social media company, Evan Spiegel, called for the creation of “a non-partisan Commission on Truth, Reconciliation, and Reparations to investigate the U.S. criminal justice system for bias and prejudice, strengthen the Department of Justice Civil Rights Division, and take action on recommendations.”
Conscious Change skills covered in this blog post:
- Check to see if you are making cultural assumptions
- Address underlying systemic biases
- Emphasize changing systems, not just individuals
- Persevere through the time lags of change; recognize small wins along the way
#ChangeStartsWithMe #DiversityEquityAndInclusion #GeorgeFloyd #BlackLivesMatter #Freedom #CorporateSocialResponsibility #diversity #FollowMe #change #bridgingdifferences #beaccountable
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